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Not too long ago, I wrote about Ty, and the origin of the name Tyler.  Allow me to do the same with Madeline (aka Minnie).  Madeline sources from Magdala in Aramaic, or Migdal in Hebrew, and means ‘Great‘ or ‘Tower‘.  Rachel was interested in this name, because it is a family name (I believe there is both one of her most favored cousins, and a second namesake that I can’t recall at the moment).  When I had looked up the meaning, I immediately thought of several verses in the bible that speak about God being our strong tower and refuge.

There is something in a name.  At times, I wonder if God has a name for me that I don’t yet know.  I think God spoke ‘Madeline’ into our minds before she was born.  One of my favorite stories in the bible is about Gideon’s army.  Gideon was a bit unsure of himself and God’s direction, and asked for ‘proof’ that he’d win the war God was asking him to wage.  He wasn’t a general, and his army… should not have won.  When Gideon gathered the army, God told him that it was too big, 32,000 men, and through a series of tests, reduced the army to 300 men.  These 300 unlikely victors went on to conquer and do all that God had told them to do.

When the Psalms and Proverbs talk about ‘a strong tower‘, they are talking about the shelter and safety that can be found in God, high above enemies and the dangers of this world.  Like Gideon’s story, this may not make much sense by all worldly accounts and understanding, but God is bigger than any of that.   Gideon’s army needed to be reduced, so that there would be no doubt that God delivered the victory.  God was glorified in the ‘smallness‘ of Gideon’s army.

Madeline is the the very definition of an unlikely victor.  She was born with a tumor, which we learned was malignant.  Removal of the tumor and the surrounding skeletal material left her in a state of severe scoliosis with her organs being crushed to the point that she struggled to breath and could not eat.  On more than one occasion, we have been told that nothing could be done, and that she should be taken home, and enjoy our time together as she is dying.  By all worldly accounts and understanding, she should not be alive today.  But God is bigger than any of that.

God used modern medicine to keep her alive, and to correct her scoliosis more than was ever hoped.  Ultimately, her spine was fused, because no more correction was possible, and there is considerable risk of it getting worse during adolescence.  So, at 10 years of age, Madeline will no longer gain height in the trunk of her body.  She’s little.  “Fun sized” we say.  Even though we joke, she is a little self-conscious about it.  I hope that she sees that God has been greatly glorified, and will continue to be in her small stature.   She is famous in most all grades at her K-12 school, and at church.  She’s known for being kind, loving, loyal, and… safe.  Your fears and your hopes are safely shared with her.  She judges bad grammar and swearing, but even then lets you know that you are forgiven and loved regardless of your bad language or bad grammar (trust me, she’s heard both from me.)  She stands apart like a tower.  She reflects God’s love to any and all that she meets.

She may be small, but it is clear that the love, long suffering, kindness, humility, consideration, selflessness, and purity are big, and from a substantial Source.

An unlikely victor, but a victor nonetheless.  I can help but think “Praise be to God” each time I see her.

Madeline is a good name, not exactly what I had imagined, but better.  I hope that she will learn this truth as well.  Different from the world, not exactly what people expect, but better.




Kind of weird to talk about yourself in a blog post, but recently I heard someone say, “You should always be be ready with your three minute testimony.”  Three minute testimony?!?  What is that?  The idea is you should be able to provide a very basic recounting of your life before God, how you met God, and your life after God.  Short and sweet.  Short is good because I don’t want to bore someone to tears, and because I’ve always been a little (irrationally) frightened about anything that looks like proselytizing. Apart from the fact that Christians are commanded to share the good news, my love for my fellow man should be sufficient incentive to overcome any “shyness” about sharing how my life, and eternity, has been changed by knowing the Creator of the Universe.

So, some folks have amazing testimonies that involves being saved from a life of desperation and hopelessness.  Not me.  I have attended church as long as my memory can see, heard about God and Jesus and all that.  Didn’t really disagree with any of it, but I wouldn’t say that I knew God yet.  My story starts out in a little A-Frame House out in the country.  Pretty sweet situation, really.  Had some small farm animals, some nice acreage to explore, a little brother to boss around, not much more a boy could ask for.  Well… Almost.  My parents split up when I was quite little, and at this point in my life, I was particularly preoccupied with the fact my dad didn’t live with me.  I got to see him on Tuesdays for a while, and later when I was older would spend summers with him.  Even with all the trees to climb, snakes to hunt, and animals to tend too around that A-Frame… I was sad.  I missed my dad.  I felt alone.  Sometimes a little angry, but mostly alone.

I remember many a night, lying in bed crying.  I’ve heard many people try to describe how they have heard the Lord. There is some variation, but there is some consistency as well.  For me, it wasn’t the audible booming voice that filled the room, or even a quiet but audible whisper.  For me, God’s voice has always come in an overwhelming of my heart, accompanied by a truth that I cannot contest.  It was lying in my room, as a young boy (must have been about 4-5 years of age), when I heard God tell me that I am HIS son.  That He is with me, and He called me friend.  God called me friend. This initial meeting was brought to a fuller understanding at Awanas, where an older boy walked me through a prayer of salvation.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

This changed everything.  I still missed my Dad, but I knew I wasn’t alone.  I got a little comfortable with this notion over time, and as I went to school, made friends, assimilated into a new family, I think I had forgotten that my Friend was there.  I made choices that I’m not proud of, and lived in a way that didn’t really reflect that the Creator of the Universe is my personal friend, my father, or really anything to me.  I struggled with depression, at first for no good reason, but later fueled by the guilt over my choices and the selfishness that had possessed me.   I tried to read the bible periodically, still attended church, tried to live rightly, but always managed to come up short.

One day, while reading the bible, seeking to hear from my old friend, something was revealed to me.  Another truth that I could not contest.  I had been working to be a good Christian.  To always turn the other cheek, to forgive others, to be selfless, like Christ showed us.  I stumbled across the verse:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

My Friend spoke to me again, and made it very clear that I had NO RIGHT to hold so tightly onto my guilt.  I had tried so hard to be a good Christian and always forgive others, but refused to forgive myself. Was the God of the Universe, the one that sent his only son to suffer on the cross, to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that I, Joshua, could be forgiven of my sins and re-united with my Father in heaven, good enough to forgive everyone’s sins, but not mine?  I had been worshipping my guilt!  My guilt had become my god, and replaced that Friend that walked with me so faithfully for so long.  He still wanted to walk with me, but expected me to let him.

My life has been radically changed since God spoke to me on that day.  This book…  Had reduced me to something undeserving, unrighteous and just plain not good enough, but that is ok, because He has made me deserving, righteous, and way better than I could ever hope to be.  I still struggle to “do the right thing” as a grown Christian man, but the thing that I learned is that I want to do the right thing, to honor, love and be faithful to the Friend that has been so faithful to me.  Not because I could ever “do the right thing” enough to really make a difference on my own, because I can’t.

Do you know my faithful Friend?  If you don’t, but would like to, please tell someone today.  You can tell me, a friend you know is a Christian, find your way to a local church, but please speak to someone immediately.  This world is too dark and lonely to go through it alone.

Do you already know my faithful Friend?  Then obey the laws…  Not because you can be “good enough”, but do it out of love and because of the promises we find in the bible.  That verse I told you at the beginning, Joshua 1:9?  Ya, as with so many things in the bible, context is everything.  Take a look at the previous verse, verse 8:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:8-9

For it will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Friend, that has been 100% my experience.  I want to know this book inside and out, and obey every bit of wisdom it offers, not out of some moral piety, but out of love and because I have enjoyed the prospering success each nugget of wisdom has provided to me.  Because it has protected me from harm and ruin, and been a playbook for success.

My Father loves me.  He loves you too.


This week we celebrated Ty’s 15th birthday.  While Ty seemed to be in a lot of thought of his newfound task of learning to drive, and what the future holds, I found myself reminiscing about the last 16 years.

Rachel and I spent a lot of time thinking about what to name our first born.  We considered family names, bible names, and popular ‘new’ names.  Ultimately, we rested on Tyler.

Tyler, or tile layer, was considered an occupational name for a laborer with some specific skills.  Tyler comes from a long line of hard workers.  His great-grandfather AJ, whom he didn’t get the opportunity to meet, was a roofer (tile layer), who worked tirelessly to provide for a family of seven.  Not only did he get up early to work on roofs before the Texas sun could get to them, but he also worked a ranch that produced crops, cattle, chicken and eggs, pecans and peaches.  Skilled in the artistry of graftage, Grandaddy seemed to know something about everything there is to husbandry.  His hardworking was matched by none, except maybe his wife, Elizabeth.

Ty’s other great grandfather, Jack, has served his country, worked as a power lineman and pole setter, and has also worked a ranch all his life.  Jack is skilled in welding, and can make anything work, knowledgeable about every tool and accoutrement.

These men’s tenacious drive to work hard and to never stop learning has allowed them to provide for their families, and afford a future for their children.  The character they possess has been passed on to their children, and a legacy that has also been passed on to Ty.  While Tyler isn’t a common family name, its meaning of hard work is a family characteristic.

Ty' and his learner's permit.

Ty’s Learner’s Permit

I am so proud to see that the hopes and aspirations I had for my unborn son almost 16 years ago have come to fruition, as I see him commit himself to service to his family and others, double down on his schoolwork, and give nothing short of his all to each endeavor he takes.  I love to see the legacy that my grandparents have passed on is still living in him.  He continues to progress in study of his martial art, Tang Soo Do, working hard in advanced classes in hopes of taking College Credit AP courses soon, taking on a Medical Neuroscience course, and all the while seeking to stand apart from the world, and be/go who/where God would have him be/go.  It is not easy.

I had hoped that he would be hard working and have a heart of service.  God has blessed him with a great deal more, though. His intelligence, loyalty, integrity, and learnedness make him a great young man.  I knew a fraction of what he knows about life, when I was the same age.  I’m excited to see what is in store for him.  I’ve moved from hoping for him to anxious anticipation for what great things lie in store for him.

God is good, and the young man I see on the potter’s wheel is good too.

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